The UP Forum was created to serve as a venue for University-focused and University-related think pieces. Appearing quarterly, it’s different from a newsletter or a research journal; it was meant to talk about issues important to the University community—not just the faculty or administration, but also the students, the staff, and even the campus residents and alumni.
I had the unique privilege of serving as UP Forum’s editor twice, on the two occasions that I was appointed Vice President for Public Affairs between 2003 and 2005 and between 2017 and 2019. Being a writer and a journalist myself, I felt personally invested in the UP Forum (as in our other media) and sought ways of broadening its appeal while deepening its coverage.
The first time, I had it reformatted into something a bit more formal but devoted to the hot topics or issues of the hour, such as “Financing the University,” which I felt was needed at a time when very few UP people—including administrators—understood what it took to keep the University afloat. I also introduced the UP Forum Roundtable—and I acknowledge the slight redundancy in the title—to bring in more personal viewpoints and responses from all the University’s eight CUs.
This second time around, I again supported the reformatting of the Forum into a color magazine in a handier size, with better pictures, and shorter, more engaging pieces on less ponderous but no less interesting topics as our campus greens and architecture, UP in the movies, cherished UP traditions, and music in UP life. The Roundtable remains, although I’d like to see more divergent and provocative opinions, less safe answers, and as always, a truly broad representation of UP sectors and campuses.
Our many academic journals provide a record of UP’s contributions to intellectual life, but the UP Forum’s legacy for me will be that of providing space for the things that mean something to us not just as scholars but as people in a community—a very special community with a very special mission.
I conceptualized the UP Forum with President Francisco Nemenzo. We were in agreement with the idea of an official system-wide newspaper that would not only be a channel to communicate administration programs and policies but would be also be a venue for a vibrant and free exchange of ideas of members of the UP community across UP constituent units.
The tagline “Popular na Pahayag ng Malayang Komunidad” expressed the philosophy behind the newspaper. Using the format of a broadsheet, the UP Forum gave space to different voices within the UP community—administration. faculty, research staff, UP employees—on varied academic issues as well as national concerns that affect the community. It had a front-page regular column by the UP President, a section for news coming from the different constituent units, an opinion page with an editorial and monthly columns by faculty from different disciplines and persuasions, a section that featured innovative research and achievement of the UP faculty and research staff, essays contributed by faculty, staff and administrative personnel, a forum on contending views on UP and national issues.
Our first issue in November 1999 with a front-page story and photos of the sorry state of disrepair of urinals in the men’s room of Palma Hall may have shocked readers, but it certainly made clear to all that President Nemenzo was serious in prioritizing the repair of rest rooms to make life better for UP students.
Now and then, the UP Forum came out with special issues such as the detailing of the budget process from proposal to Congress approval in order to stir interest and involve the UP community in the process itself; a presentation of the proposed Revitalized General Education Program together with a background on the history of the GE and the varied views on the RGEP.
Reminiscing the early years of the UP Forum is to acknowledge the research-based news gathering capability, informed writing, creativity and tireless effort of the staff of the UP System Information Office in making the broadsheet a popular venue for untrammeled discourse.
I cannot talk about the paper’s “legacy,” since I was no longer able to follow it after I retired as a full-time UP faculty member. In fact, I considered requesting the office of the VP for Public Affairs that Professors Emeriti be given a kind of lifetime subscription. But I never got around to it.
What I can do is describe what we wanted it to be during my term as its Editor in Chief. Our idea was to devote each UP Forum issue to just one theme, e.g., the World Financial Crisis of 2008, the Philippine Population Problem, Health Care for the Future, The State of Higher Education, The Undervaluing of Sports in UP, the State of the Arts in the Philippines, etc.
There would be one lead article written by the University’s leading expert in the field. There would be a round table discussion, featuring members of different sectors in UP (faculty, administrators, students, alumni). There would be related feature articles, sometimes an interview story, and, when possible a book review. The idea was to ensure that the issue was explored as thoroughly as possible, given the time and space constraints, by people who enjoyed the respect of the community, as scholars and/or practitioners in the field. We deliberately did not include an editorial section or a column section, so that the paper would not run the risk of being suspected of representing a single point of view, least of all that of the UP Administration. I felt that this was one way of encouraging our colleagues to engage with important national issues, since the general public looks to UP, as the national university, for badly needed intellectual leadership.
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